Donald Trump, sorry – President Donald Trump – made his name in real estate and other businesses, and now he has the keys to the White House and, with it, the title of most powerful man in the world. For a man who made the economy a significant part of his election campaign, it’ll be no surprise that some of the biggest changes he enacts during his tenure in the White House will have to do with financial markets, trade, and businesses. But what exactly can we expect from the economy over the next four years, and how will businesses be affected? We take a look at some of the biggest shifts that might occur, as well as some of the winners and losers of Trumps policies.
Wall Street hasn’t always been the most consistent street on earth, but even by the financial district’s up and down past, Trump’s presidency is something new entirely. If there’s one thing that the stock market needs to be healthy, it’s stability. And Donald Trump doesn’t offer stability. In fact, his rise to the highest position in the land was such a shock that Wall Street was shook the moment it was announced he had won the election. Of course, Wall Street will eventually bounce back – and might even benefit from some of Trump’s policies, but the ever present threat of destabilization will make the stock market increasingly volatile, especially in light of the president’s mantra of ‘America First’. How does that attitude affect a global market? We’ll have to wait to find out.
After the economy, Donald Trump’s main focus was on immigration. He was mostly talking about illegal immigration, but the wider implications of his rhetoric were hard to avoid, even if they were just collateral damage: immigrants will not be front of the queue to benefit from Trump’s policies. The moral debate about this is irrelevant to business; what actually matters is how businesses that rely on foreign labour will be able to cope with any changes that limit a foreigner’s ability to work in the United States. Resort areas are dependent on overseas labour to fill busy seasonal periods, and they won’t be easily replaced; indeed, the reason they are hired is often because the company can’t find Americans who want to work on a short term basis.
For companies that hire the very best employees regardless of where they hail from, such as start ups and IT companies, Trump’s policies might make it more difficult for them to get the necessary work visas.
If you’re a high earner and/or have a vested interest in the profits of a corporation, then Donald Trump might just be the hero you need in order for you to take home more of your money. For starters, President Trump is going to simplify the tax process, more than halving the number of tax brackets. If you’re among the highest wage earners, you’ll see your tax rate drop from nearly 40% down to 33%. Corporate taxes are also being lowered to 15%, and companies who have been concealing their earnings in overseas territories will be able to move their money back home for a one off 10% tax.
Donald Trump is a businessman and, like many other businessmen, has a loathing of nitpicking regulations that stop companies doing business with another and the public at large. Now that there is a businessman in the White House, we might soon have a situation whereby many of the regulations that have stagnated the economy are lifted, and businesses allowed to flourish. This could mean changes in lending laws, financial and banking practices, emission laws, and much more becoming the norm as an era of an open economy comes to pass.
While this might be good for business owners, workers are more likely to feel the strain of any rollbacks of regulations, as in many cases they were initially enacted into law their benefit. For instance, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, or at least the parts that say businesses that employ 50 or more workers have to offer health coverage, would have a hugely detrimental effect on workers. See also the minimum wage, which Trump has been wavering on. At the moment, he supports a rise to $10 an hour – but will the change, or is it enough anyway?
Many businesses are connected with other parts of the world in some way or another, and this is only made possible due to trade agreements that have been agreed in the past. Donald Trump has vowed to rip up the trade deals that he believes do more harm than good for the United States, and negotiate new deals with countries around the world. This might sound good to some Americans, but the policies come with a long set of problems. For instance, Trump would like to negotiate trade deals that bring American factory jobs back to the states, but this simply can’t happen – any companies that move back to the states will use automated machines to make their products, not workers. Additionally, punishing companies who outsource their work overseas might make them employee domestically, but there would no way that prices could stay the same if workers commanded an American salary. And what a public that cannot afford to buy do for the economy?
Trump has only been Commander-in-Chief for a matter of days, so it’s too early to tell exactly how his presidency will shape social and economic life in the United States and beyond. Needless to say, the economy is heading some big changes once Trump gets properly underway with his plans. If the potential changes listed above frighten you, then A. You’re not alone and B. Perhaps it’s worth remembering that Trump has a habit of flip flopping on ideas, even those that appear to be key to his policies, depending on his whim. So it might not all be as bad as it seems. Or it might be worse. We’ll have to wait and see.
Fears of a 2019 European Economic Slowdown Loom
Although the spotlight is on the trade war between the United States and China, one aspect that is currently ignored by the media is represented by signs of weakness in the European continent.
Germany slows down
After posting a -0.3% GDP contraction in the third quarter of 2018, the economic indicators released from Germany in 2019 cannot support a positive economic picture. The manufacturing sectors continue to show signs of weakening, with the Markit PMI Composite now at 51.6, down from 52.3.
Industrial Production had been contraction by 1.9% in November, and both imports and exports had been down by 1.6% and 0.4%, respectively. DAX trading had also suggested there is growing concerns among investors and the main German stock index peaked out in July 2018, being now down by 15%.
Germany relies mostly on exports, being the third exporter in the world, only surpassed by the United States and China. That is why the weakness we see in Germany is actually a symptom of what’s happening in other European countries as well.
Italy and France not too encouraging
The new populist government in Italy, formed by La Lega and The Five Star Movement faced a serious challenge to get the EU’s approval for the 2019 budget, as the already high debt-to-GDP ratio (currently at 131.8%) raises concerns on whether the country will be able to meet its debt obligations in the future.
There are also serious concerns about the banking sector, which despite mergers and acquisitions, and huge capital available from the ECB, were unable to solve their problems which emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. The future of Italy is very uncertain, and analysts predict that the new government will not be able to meet their economic promises, given that we are at the end of a business cycle.
Speaking of France, the problems are social at the present time. President Macron was unable to stop the “Yellow Vests” protests, despite promises to increase the minimum wage and the overall standard of living for the very poor. France’s debt-to-GDP ratio currently stands at 97%, but given the latest promises, there are concerns whether the country will manage to keep the budget deficit below 3% in 2019, as the European treaties demand.
Although there’s a single currency in Europe, in terms of fiscal policy things were very fragmented, which is why the economic recovery had been very slow and the reason why investors predict Europe will face the greatest challenges to solve its economic, political, and social problems.
Sterling Whipsaws as Brexit Negotiations Fall Flag
Sterling whipsawed on Thursday, first tumbling and then rallying, and experiencing robust volatility. The GBP/JPY also experienced a wild ride as the yen increased in value on safe-haven flows. Sterling has been trading under pressure following news that the European Union has no plans for further Brexit discussions. May is now stuck between a rock and a hard place and may have to exit from the EC without an agreement.
The EU Has No Plans to Continue Brexit Talks
The European Union announced through a spokesperson saying that they had no plan on further Brexit discussions with the UK. The British had hoped for additional assurances on the contested Irish backstop. Prime Minister May has been making the rounds with EU leaders ahead of this month’s vote in parliament, but her diplomacy appears to have failed to change any minds.
The Financial Times reports that a EU source said no dialogue has occurred over the past 10-days and that PM May spoke to the EC head Donald Tusk on January 2. The EU is sticking to their word and appears to reflect the view that EU officials have gone as far as they can as it relates to the Irish backstop. They also revealed that if a backstop was triggered that EU negotiators would use “best endeavors” to negotiate a replacement agreement.
Strong US Private Payrolls Help Buoy US Yields
Sterling was also shaken by a rebound in the dollar which was buoyed by an uptick in US yields. US yields tumbled on Wednesday as traders removed all the potential tightening of interest rates in 2019. In fact, the yield curve shows that 1-year yields are less than current yields. This came despite a stronger than expected private payroll report, released by ADP on January 3.
ADP reported that Private payrolls rose by 271,000 in December, beating expectations that jobs would increase by 178,000. You can follow the private payroll report on Vestle news. The strong jobs numbers should help lift wages which is an argument for why the Fed should remain vigilant. The increase in private payrolls was the largest climb in nearly 2-years and increased the 2018-month average of private payroll gains to 203,000.
The report showed the increase in jobs was mainly drive by professional and business services which increased by a solid 66,000 while education and health services contributed 61,000 and leisure and hospitality added 39,000. In all, service-related industries were responsible for 224,000 of the new hires, while goods producers rose by 47,000. This include an increase in construction which grew by 37,000 and manufacturing added 12,000. Natural resources and mining lost 2,000 positions.
Sterling rebounded after making a fresh low of 1.24 which is a 20-month low on sterling versus the greenback. The exchange rate is likely to remain volatile until there is a solution to the UK exit from the EU. The trend is also downward sloping, and with momentum negative, the path of least resistance is for a lower exchange rate for sterling.
Manufactured goods and industry: a symbol of German decline
German industrial power and quality levels became a national symbol in the latter part of the 20th century, and to some extent the lifeboat of post-war reconstruction. Even throughout the industrial rise of Asia at the end of the century, the German island remained sanctuarize from the competitive attacks of Eastern developing countries. But several German industries have been increasingly struggling in the past decade and gasping for air. Is Germany at the end of its prosperity cycle, for having rested on its laurels?
Germany, along with its wartime Japanese ally, impressed the world with its rise from its ashes in the latter half of the 20th century. Starting with the Marshall plan quickly followed by self-standing growth, Germany speedily re-built its industrial capacity, and its reputation for top-notch quality. As soon as in the 1960s, German brands invaded the global market with their sturdy reputation preceding them: if the product said “Made in Germany” then the customer could feel sure there was nothing better on the market. At the end of the century, a large share of the top global engineering segment was German: BMW, Bosch, Rheinmetall, Merck, the list is endless. Economic historian Werner Abelshauer describes  how the label “made in Germany” became a symbol of quality: “The label “Made in Germany” ultimately developed into a sign of quality, though it took a while.” But the era during which Germany levitated above the rest of the industrial world is coming to an end. While Germany remained unharmed by Asian competition for longer than its neighbors, it is now fighting on a level field with all other manufacturers in the field, and worse: it’s not doing all that well. Economic reporter Chris Papadopoullos placed  the start of the decline during the year 2015: “Total production, which includes construction, manufacturing and mining, dipped 1.2 per cent in August compared with July, German statistical office Destatis said. The production of capital goods fell 2.1 per cent while consumer goods dipped 0.4 per cent. Construction and energy output also posted declines “.
Of course, the Volkswagen scandal caused a major dent in the image of industrial Germany. Consulting group ALVA published an extensive study of the post-scandal consequences on the image of Volkswagen and German quality altogether, and wrote : “After the emissions scandal revelations, we can see a very different picture, with all Advocacy drivers having moved into negative territory to a greater or lesser extent. This is indicative of a reverse halo effect in which a negative emotional response to a company due to an erosion of trust spills over and clouds rational judgement of all of its traits.” Until then, German car manufacturers had been above suspicion, thanks to their reputation for industrial quality and business performance: when one is the best, there is no need to cheat. Through the fraudulent emissions revelations, Volkswagen, one of Germany’s flagships, showed that “Made in Germany” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and that they had flown too high on borrowed wings. The scandal shed doubt over other German flagships in its wake, as reported  by automotive journalist James Mills: “German media allege that US authorities have discovered that Daimler, parent of Mercedes, developed software for its diesel-powered vehicles that would shut down vital emissions equipment after driving just a short distance. Daimler is reported to have come up with programs that would shut down certain functions of the selective catalytic reduction filter after just 16g/km of NOx is admitted.” And the damage extended beyond the automobile world, into the whole industry.
Of course, if the problem were limited to the automobile world, Germany could survive on the others. But the slipping in industrial standards, the resulting loss of performance, and finally the need to resort to unsavory business practices to survive, seems to have contaminated all fields of the German industrial apparatus. German shipbuilder TKMS recently illustrated the downfall: after decades of occupying high grounds on the submarine market, the engineering firm is facing such a severe string of problems that it is facing being sold off entirely and scrapped from the national heritage. After losing a major submarine contract in Australia, it delivered a few corvettes to the German Navy, which simply refused them on the dock, due to quality standards being overstepped. Wall Street Journal William Wilkes reported : “Germany’s naval brass in 2005 dreamed up a warship that could ferry marines into combat anywhere in the world, go up against enemy ships and stay away from home ports for two years with a crew half the size of its predecessor’s. First delivered for sea trials in 2016 after a series of delays, the 7,000-ton Baden-Württemberg F125 frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: It doesn’t really work.” Germany’s submarine fleet, also built by the same shipbuilder, is currently completely out of order . In desperate need for new contracts, it resorted to bribing officials, resulting in a political and economic quagmire in Israel. In an attempt to secure a submarine purchasing contract in Tel-Aviv, TKMS allegedly transferred over 10 million dollars through shell companies to a top government Israeli official. News Site Haaretz  reports: “At least ten high-powered individuals have been identified as involved in the scandal, including very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is the focus of a police investigation, which is probing possible wrongdoing involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp’s local representative.” For weathered investors, this time in which German manufacturers need to resort to cheating to make up for their slipping industrial standards is something completely new, and in some ways an earthquake. As a result, investments are scarce for start-ups , as well as for established businesses .
Germany’s downfall in the industrial world isn’t taken lightly by political forces, and the economic problem is turning into a political one, with worker unions stepping up their criticism of management, and politicians scrambling to stop the nosedive. Angela Merkel has been urgently addressing the problem, but so far too little or no avail. “Angela Merkel champions Industry 4.0, urging investment in new technology. German business isn’t heeding the call”, says Politico . Unlike Angela Merkel, many in the country haven’t figured out that Germany had slipped from one industrial model to another: initially known for the superb quality of its products, it was caught up quickly by its direct competitors: United Kingdom, France, Japan and the United States in particular. The core of German’s added value today lies mainly in the machine-tools and high-tech subsystems of German equipment-makers. But as a whole, Germany no longer has the capacity to integrate large and complex systems such as aircrafts, frigates or new-generation submarines.
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